Points are just around the corner for the troubled Lotus squad, says the team’s Technical Director Nick Chester.
Lotus, who finished fourth in the constructors’ championship in 2013, have struggled with their troublesome 2014 car – the E22 – ever since it first hit the track in Bahrain for the second pre-season test, and the Enstone-based outfit are yet to score a point in 2014.
However, despite the slow start to the season, Lotus Technical Director Nick Chester believes that the team now stands on the verge of collecting its first points of the year, with the Lotus boss claiming that his team can now match Toro Rosso for outright pace, with McLaren and Williams the next targets.
“The E22 has tremendous potential even if we are only gradually unlocking it,” said Chester. “Although we were still not quick enough in Bahrain, we actually don’t need to find much more performance before we can be regularly in the points. We are about level with Toro Rosso for pace at the moment.
“Were it not for the safety car incident in Bahrain, Pastor would have been fighting for our first point.
“Our qualifying pace hasn’t been on the same level to our race pace. Our race-pace gap to the Williams and McLaren is now half a second and it was over a second in Sepang, so we’ve made a decent incremental improvement.
“That’s not where we want to be, but we’re on the edge of the points during what are still very early days for the E22.”
Lotus’ has struggled to find reliability with the E22 ever since the cars late launch, which has hampered the team’s attempts at development, with Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean completing just 32 laps across the two day in-season test in Bahrain this week, as a result of “power unit issues.”
“It means you have to prioritise what parts to evaluate, so we’ve had to adapt our programme for China because of this. Clearly we all want to put reliability concerns behind us so we can focus on performance and showing our true pace,” explained Chester.
“I think we’ve got a lot more to learn about the E22 than the other teams. We learn something every time the car takes to the track, with every lap.”
Despite the reliability setbacks, Lotus remain assured of the promise of the E22, which features a unique twin-tusk nose, an area which Chester explains will be a focus for development in China, as the team attempts to close down Williams and McLaren.
“We’re going to attempt to get as much as we can out of FP1 and FP2 in Shanghai to test new parts,” he added. “We have a lot of aero parts we want to evaluate throughout the E22, including an evolution to our nose.
“We’ve also got some aerodynamic developments that should be interesting to evaluate for China, when we are hoping for a bit more out of the power unit as well, both reliability and pace wise. Expect to see some bodywork upgrades in China and then a bigger upgrade in Barcelona.
“Partly because of how immature the car is we haven’t managed to evaluate all the performance capabilities we want to yet. The big areas [to improve] I would say are braking, aero and the power unit.
“We know we are still at a very early stage with the E22 – more so than our rivals – and there are clear areas where we know the performance can be extracted.”
Image courtesy of Lotus F1 Team